AM I A MEMBER OF A HATE CULT?
As an ex-cult member, I often speak out on my former beliefs. (See BRAINWASHED - A CULT SURVIVOR'S TALE That I have openly accused the sect I was in (Divine Light Mission) of mind-control and deception; I have inevitably gained some disdain from those who still follow the sect’s beliefs. They are naturally as entitled to criticise me, as I am to be critical of their teachings. It comes as a shock however to find that I am often dismissively accused of being a member of a ‘Hate-Cult’ which the opponents of the cult are frequently accused of participating in. I am not the only member of this conveniently created cult in which all outspoken opponents of Maharaji allegedly belong. Key ‘Maharaji hate Cult’ into a search engine like Google and you will see how many times such an accusations made by the cult against many of its opponents and critics. Here is a website chronicling some of the reactions they have given to ex-member and outspoken critic, Mike Finch http://www.indymedia.org/en/2006/02/832961.shtml
Some of my postings on mailing lists and forums relating to the sect have provoked very angry responses from still active cult members. When the cult leader’s biography Peace Is Possible, by Andrea Cagan, (reviewed by me here http://book.review-andrea.cagan-peace.is.possible.htm) came out, I posted some of my views on it on the Amazon Book site discussion forum set up to promote the book. Feedback from a handful of members of the cult itself brutally challenged my motives, my sanity, and at least one of my postings was censored after requests were sent to the Amazon web administrators for its removal. The posting, which I have been unable to save to file even for myself, was merely a request to keep the discussion on topic.
After my message was deleted at the cult’s request, their own messages gloated in my defeat and one poster in favour of the cult even compared my writings to one of the nastiest and most infamous works of xenophobia ever produced.
science fiction and fantasy version of him (Maharaji) created by those with a
need to abuse their power of imagination is especially creepy in it's
similarity to the Protocols of Zion hoax which precipitated a good deal
of the anti Semitism of the twentieth century.”
To have my own innocuous message deleted and then write this seems bizarre to put it mildly. Such emotive anger seems excessive, and it hurts to find myself discredited as such an intolerant individual. It makes me ask myself closely if I really am hateful, and to what extent I am driven by personal hatred and animosity to the cult I once followed so fanatically. Equally unpleasant is their addition of hostile remarks against other critics of their movement who were not personally involved in the discussion I was instigating. One lady who had been in the sect, and who was unable to post on the forum (Amazon only allow participation by those who actually buy any of their products) was subjected to some extra-ordinary abuse and treated as if she was actively conspiring with me in a push to overthrow Maharaji.
Amazon seem to be more tolerant to the cult for a simple reason – the cult members are more likely to buy the Cagan book than those who are not in the cult or who were once in it. The book is produced by the cult itself through its publishing house, Mighty River Press. Many opponents will therefore not purchase it from a desire not to further its leaders considerable income.
So, am I a hateful person?
Hate is defined in most dictionaries as an intense dislike, so yes, I am hateful. I dislike peas, I dislike television soap operas. I am fussy about many things.
Such hates a merely matters of fastidiousness, taste and preference. My dislike of peas simply means I choose other foods to dine on. I have no desire to campaign to get peas banned from the shops.
Do I hate people? Yes, there are people I hate, or dislike intensely. I hated the bullies who made my life miserable some of the time at school. I hate mass murderers, etc. In effect, I am judgemental. I will assess people by what they say and do – I seldom judge by appearances – more by actions and words. I like to think I do not hate anyone for the colour of their skin, their nationality, their gender or even their religious and cultural beliefs.
That I am writing of hate in relation to a cult and saying I am tolerant of religious beliefs seems an immediate self-contradiction, but I really have no umbrage with anyone believing anything they wish. I have friends of many beliefs. My Humanistic article on FREEMASONRY - which I strongly disagree with, led me to a friendship and respect for a member of a Grand Lodge and got me a guided tour of the facilities.
Clearly, there are degrees of hate. Hating peas is one thing and based on experience. Hatred of being mugged is based on healthy caution towards avoiding have it happen again, i.e., staying in well lit areas after dark, not flashing money around, etc. A difference between these two hates is the ‘fear’ factor. I’m not afraid of peas. I do fear the pain and potential physical harm an assault could bring to me.
Sometimes, you can hate something without fearing it, and vice versa – someone fearful of spiders may not necessarily hate them.
Some fear and hate can be rational and justified. If you live in an area where there are lots of muggings, you may well fear going out alone after dark. Other fears can be irrational. Fear of being hit and killed by a meteorite to the point of not leaving the house is irrational as the chances of it happening are extremely remote.
Some fear and hatred is rooted in ignorance. Many people who are racist and xenophobic are in that fame of mind because they have been taught as much from other racists in their family and community. People can easily be led to believe that migrants will take all our jobs, and other myths. That such hatred can lead to Apartheid, and genocide is all too apparent from human history. I feel some confidence that my hates do not drive me in such extreme directions. Nevertheless, I have hate inside me – we all do.
Some people hate me. I wish it was not so, but it is – some also hate you, whoever you are. Someone hates everyone in the World. No one is totally universally admired, adored and loved. Someone somewhere has negative feelings towards somebody. Nobody loves everybody. Only false piety would lead us not to feel some hatred and bitterness. Hate can be a good thing. It tells us instinctively to fight or flee. The rabbit fears the eagle. The cat hates the dog. Removing that which we hate or making ourselves safe from it can be a good thing. If we were satisfied with our green-flock wallpaper we would never replace it. If the Berlin Wall were not hated, it would never have been torn down. Hatred can fuel social progress. It can of course, also lead to all manner of social atrocity and war.
How does an organisation like Divine Light Mission attract hatred and fear? Is it right, and rational to hate a man like Guru Maharaji?
Anyone running any kind of social organization sooner or later runs into criticism and has to deal with dissatisfied former customers. Religions are particularly vulnerable to this problem. The very fact that an organization is a ‘religion’ means that atheists and agnostics will automatically dislike it to a greater or lesser extent. Also, with so many competing religious belief systems, some people may try following a religion for a time, and then leave it in favour of a different one. The parting of the ways, as with a divorce, or the leaving of the family home may be amicable or fraught with friction and resentment by all parties, irrespective of who’s fault it was that things didn’t work out.
Some former believers of any given religion are content simply to put their experiences behind them, and move on with their lives. Their time with the belief system (whether a few months or several decades) may simply become discreet happy or bitter personal memories, or they may conversely be analysed, questioned, recorded, and even published in minute detail. Many people can be introverted and retrospective enough and self-analysing enough to constantly ask themselves why they did certain things, and why they believed certain things.
The reasons for apostasy (deciding to no longer follow a particular religion which you once believed in) can be rooted in dissatisfaction with theological issues; i.e.; a sense that the sect has a different view of the Transubstantiation Of the blood of Jesus at the Last Supper than another, now preferred sect is advocating.
It may also however be a sense that the religion being followed is receiving too much negative publicity. Questions may be asked about the way the group’s finances are arranged. The leader may have faced accusations of sexual impropriety. People may say the group is a dangerous cult. That is largely what has happened in Maharaji’s case.
Such negative feedback can devastate a belief system. A wave of serious allegations can set members to question the real worth of what they may have taken for granted before. A strong wave of criticism, especially if the sect makes no positive defence against it, may lead to many people deciding to leave the movement.
The cult, Divine Light Mission was proving to be very successful between 1971 (when it’s teenage Indian Guru, Maharaj Ji first appeared in the West) and 1973. After this two-year honeymoon however, things went seriously wrong. Accusations appeared in the press of financial wrongdoing. An incident in India where an aircraft filled with jewellery was stopped at Customs amidst allegations of smuggling came to light. Worse, the Guru’s own mother denounced her son’s increasing Playboy lifestyle and materialism. He was seen eating meat whilst promoting Vegetarianism. A reporter who upset the Guru was beaten up severely by leading followers, and left with severe skull damage. Things really reached a peak with the teen-Guru’s marriage to an American air Hostess Marolyn Johnson, who he rechristened as Durga Ji. This caused the growing rift between him and his mother to widen irrecoverably. The Mission split in half. Many followers, disillusioned by the infighting, left in droves. Active membership plummeted.
After a few years in the wilderness, the young Guru began to actively re-recruit and build up his numbers again, but former members had a habit of surfacing in the media to remind the World of the way the party had disintegrated before. To the re-invented cult, which had changed its name from Divine Light Mission to Elan Vital, and revamped its image, this was ancient history and something it was very keen to forget. The movement began to fear and hate the press and avoided publicity altogether. Recruitment was strictly done by word of mouth. If anyone left the sect, Maharaji was fearful of him or her going to the press. The sect became increasingly insular, avoiding interviews and shunning publicity. This in itself made the work of the more outspoken ex-members difficult (as it was of course intended). As the cult kept a low profile, the media found little chance to get the opposite side of any story and often simply ignored the testimonies of the ex-members of Divine Light Mission. Groups like the Moonies, and Scientologists still had a large visible public profile. Dissenting members of those sects often found it easier to attract media attention.
However, some larger sects also had a more ferocious attitude to their critics and ex-members. Legal action, and personal intimidation of critics were commonplace accusations that actually made some ex-members of those sects reluctant to speak out. Maharaji adopted a near anonymous approach to maintaining his mission, one that convinced many he had simply gone out of business. Other cults were fighting in a more tooth and claw fashion.
A crucial change came from the Jonestown cult suicides of 1978. When 912 people died in Jim Jones’s Guyana compound, from cyanide poisoning or bullet, the whole world noticed how dangerous cults could be. Many cults members of many sects including Divine Light Mission left their movements and began to talk of how they feared similar dangers from their leaders. Jonestown, as Waco, two decades later, led to a widespread cult-concern or anti-cult movement. Ex-Members of one cult would now meet and interact with defectors from other cults, and compare notes. The former followers were not alone. Sociologists, mainstream religious clergymen, media people, and the concerned relatives of people still serving membership within the cults supported them. Some parents were so concerned that they hired deprogrammers to kidnap their sons and daughters from the cult and force them to listen to negative feedback about the sect until they realised that they had been duped. Such desperate and extreme practice has now largely been discontinued as even people opposed to cults regard it as a step too far. I am personally opposed to deprogramming for many reasons – mostly as it often fails. A lot of people who have been deprogrammed eventually go back to the cult and cut off contact with their families all together. It is counter-productive.
Maharaji now found that there was a huge increase in the number of people who regarded his activity with fear, hatred and concern. Though he lets it be declared that his only opposition is a minority of ex-members of his own sect, he actually has a far wider body of opponents than he would lead us to believe.
Getting word out to the world about life in Divine Light Mission is still very difficult. The cult is still not as colourful as many of the other sects around it. Maharaji has a great deal of opulence, but that of Bhagwan Rajesh who owned 0ver 80 Rolls Royces dwarfed his. Maharaji change dthe name of his sect to élan Vital, and later again to The Prem Rawat Foundation, making the Divine Light Mission to many, a thing of the past. He now promotes himself as a motivational speaker and a humble man of peace. The religious aspects of his teachings are dumbed down. He no longer calls himself Guru. The feet kissing ceremonies are now only practiced in secrecy. By the time ex-cultists have recovered enough to speak out on their experiences the cult has moved on – and the story told by the ex-member can sound obsolete and old news to many. Worse, the cult, by refusing to discuss the allegations, makes many reporters worried that presenting only one side of the case seem like biased reportage, so they often drop the stories. The ex-cultists find themselves frustrated at every turn. They can be left feeling as if they are beating their heads against the wall of an indifferent world.
The rise of the Internet has given both cult and anti-cult a new lease of life. Ex-followers of the sects in England, like myself can now communicate with ease and low expense with ex-members on the other continents of the world. The body of evidence about Maharaji has been drawn together and archived well. See http://www.prem-rawat-talk.org/forum/ the cult has exploited the fact that the founder member of the list here is based in Latvia to claim somewhat ludicrously that all of the cult’s opponents operate there. Members of the cult also regularly read and copy messages from the list for their own files, especially if the ex-members are expressing any disagreement towards one another, as being human, they often do.
himself has of late begun to seek publicity again. His active membership in the
west is at anal time low, so he is trying to recreate himself as a peace
activist and supporter of charity bodies in the Third world. Andrea Cagan’s biography http://book.review-andrea.cagan-peace.is.possible.htm
is largely geared up to promoting this image.
Inevitably however, the ex-members and the general cult-concern bodies
are struggling to remind the World of who Prem Rawat (Maharaji) really is and
that his reputation is not as squeaky clean as Cagan wishes us to believe. Even
his philanthropic work is not all it is cracked up to be if you read beyond the
hype. The following report is not from ex-members of his sect but from the
Indian times. http://india.indymedia.org/en/2003/10/8160.shtml
“The numerous concerted attempts by those
employed to promote Prem Rawat,
to raise his profile as a moral and philanthropic leader have
consistently floundered on their own cynical manipulations. A claim that
appeared to suggest that Prem Rawat had addressed the UN was shown
merely to be a speech that he gave at a hall hired from a UN
organisation. A claim that the Prem Rawat Foundation had funded the
purchase 45 tonnes of rice (in itself a paltry volume) was based on a
Press Release from the Foundation stating that a mere 4.5 tonnes had
been purchased, the cost of which is less than one hours fuel for Prem
Rawat's private jet.”
Such criticism comes at a bad time for Maharaji. Inspired by the way scientologists have secured Tom Cruise and John Travolta as high profile A-List spokesmen, Maharaji has been sending copies of his biography to Hollywood Stars and high-level politicians and peace activists in the hope of gaining support and respect. Clearly, voices from a past he would rather keep buried are a considerable threat to that, so his members are intensifying their assertion that we, including myself are just a hate cult, comparable to Rightwing Fascists and intolerant racist bodies everywhere. Such attempts to discredit his opponents can only serve to make more people notice that what the opposition has to say has some credit and worth. He has learned another lesson from scientologists – Target the critic and go for the throat.
Those ex-members who have spoken out have been loudly discredited within the cult. Any known or suspected weakness can be exploited to the detriment of an opponent. An ex-member who got divorced, or who once did drugs, etc will find news of that widely used by the sect to its members to put people off paying attention to his assertions about the movement. Some such accusations are simply manufactured.
To the cult, this is simply fighting fire with fire. They regard their opponents as fair game and the conflict as nothing short of a war.
The sect did its best to dumb down the extent of its problems from the past, while making many whole new ones, and often simply accused the former members of getting facts wrong, or of simply lying.
There is no doubt that ex-members of any sect make mistakes. Some ‘facts’ I have seen stated about Maharaji are known even to me to be inaccurate, but that is a rare occurrence, and I will always help to put the matter straight. Most of the time, ex-members are careful to get as much of their concern verified from multiple sources. The points I have raised here are all well documented. The cult however, tries to create an infallible picture of itself and its leader. This is not something you see with mainstream churches. The Catholic faith will talk freely and with genuine regret about everything from the Spanish Inquisition to the Provisional IRA. Ask Maharaji’s followers about Maharaji’s as yet unresolved protection of a high profile supporter called Jagdeo, despite child molestation accusations, and the cult will go either reclusive or offensive about the matter. Raising such a question is note a hate crime. Refusing to answer it is just the opposite.
Guru Maharaji’s followers are now continually referring to their growing body of critics as a ‘hate-cult’. Hate-cult is their latest in-cult propaganda buzz word - it's like they have all been instructed to use it at every turn by Maharaji and his minions - the puppet master pulls the strings and they all dance to his tune – Casually using emotive words like ‘hate’ is extremely dangerous.
As an ex-follower of
Maharaji’s, I have to ask myself if my own campaign against his work is fuelled
by personal hatred. Do I hate Maharaji? Yes and no! It depends what we mean by
hate. Nazis hated Jews. People hated the Nazis for their anti-Semitism. Were
those two hatreds the same thing? No. The anti-Semitism at the heart of Nazi
ideology was based on demonising and dehumanising and scapegoating a whole race
of people for personal political and financial gain (Lebensraum mentality) and
grew out of sheer prejudicial ignorance. It was inexcusable. Conversely, hating
the Nazis for what they stood for was justifiable hate – the hate galvanised
people into doing something to bring the thousand years Reich to its knees
within fifteen years of its creation. Hate drove the allied forces and
resistance movements to help stop the Nazi war machine taking over the whole
world. Hate actually saved us. Hate proved to be a positive force for
progressive change, at least under that set of circumstances.
I also think the concerns felt against cults by anti-cultists and ex-cultists are a form of justifiable hatred. Cult practices can be extremely destructive, and there is some justification for warning the world about the dangers which cult leaders like Maharaji present.
I happen to have a lot of good friends still trapped in Divine Light Mission, the name I still prefer to use - what needs to be hated is the alleged extortion, exploitation and outright deception that comes from a cult and its leader - to hate something makes us want to change it - - if we liked or loved everything we would never need to change anything - Thomas Hobbes, the 17th century philosopher, in The Leviathan, noted that human dissatisfaction drives human progress. If you lived on an island with fresh fruit in abundance and fresh water to drink, attractive people to love and be loved by you would never leave – but a drought dries the water up – the fruit dies on the vine – we have to move and look for other sources of nourishment and satisfaction - that we live in a world of economic and material scarcity means that we are never ultimately satisfied - we move, we change - we evolve - at least most of us do. The trouble with Maharaji's teaching is that it teaches its followers to stop moving - it deludes people into thinking they are satisfied – it’s inner light and peace is a trap - the rest of the world goes on round the meditation practitioner who feels a mind numbing peace and inertia while people still fight, struggle and even die fighting for freedoms and rights and needs – The follower of the cult already dead from that struggle that is life because s/he doesn’t contribute to life while s/he meditates - and Maharaji’s meditations vegetate minds - its the sheer mental atrophy of his teachings that is so dangerous. He makes people satisfied with a great big shiny nothing. While his followers atrophy, he is out there, having a party, laughing all the way to the bank and living the life he effectively takes off them. He's a vampire - he drains people’s life force and money to fuel his self-indulgence.
Hate? Do I hate? Should I hate? - Yes in some ways - Would you have hated Hitler? Would you have done all you could to bring down everything he stood for? I would not go so far as to claim that Maharaji is as big a threat as Hitler was – Maharaji is too weak to develop his movement too much now. His empire is crumbling around him faster than new recruits are joining him. I believe that he remains a serious threat to the hearts and minds of many good decent people however, and he is but one of many cult leaders. We should not underestimate him. Some people are worth hating. Maharaji has earned hatred and animosity - not blind invective - but a recognised constructive need to do what can be done to warn people of the mental stagnation that comes of adopting his way of life - the one he preaches - not the one he practices - Maharaji never practices what he preaches. Hate is a practical emotional reaction - if we didn't hate bad things badly enough we wouldn't do anything about them - and Maharaji is way up on my list of the bad things that need changing - so yes, I hate him, in the same way that I hate mediocrity, second best, hypocrisy, ignorance, bigotry, mushy peas, bad television and green wallpaper.
Hate is not just "vitriol" and no ex-Premie is a 'terrorist' – as one recently accused me of being - that is the kind of statement on their part that generates hatred – their hatred of anyone and everyone who wishes to make them accountable for their actions. It’s excessively pointlessly antagonistic and emotive - An insistence on straight answers to long outstanding questions is a demand for justice - not an act of vitriol. Maharaji must be made accountable for his actions. Many of his ex-followers should receive compensation for the hurt they have been left with. I can get reparations for faulty electrical goods, a badly wired house, etc. I can sue an employer if I am injured due to poor safety standards in his workplace. But people cannot get compensation for bad religion and meditations that failed to satisfy them. Maharaji's shop has no proper customer complaints department - it fails to offer adequate refunds. Maharaji should have 'Caveat Emptor - Buyer Beware' up on big notice boards at every meeting to promote his Knowledge and the Keys. (Promotional videos used to promote his teachings).
I for one actually don't want compensation. I feel as though my life was improved by my quiet solo escape from the clutches of the Maya that is Maharaji's World, - I found my own inner strength in picking up the pieces and making a life for myself - I became more articulate and intelligent in teaching myself to think again. The cult did me bad, but breaking free liberated me in more ways than I imagined - in some paradoxical way I benefited from the intense hurt Maharaji's teachings did to me - as the proverb goes - That which doesn't destroy us makes us stronger'.
Sadly, many people do get just destroyed by Maharaji – some end up broken, and in a few cases, dead. That hurts, and hurt, pain and destruction - yes, I hate that - and I will continue to fight against Maharaji to help free more minds and hearts from his evil repulsive clutches. Yes, I hate him, in a funny, positive constructive kind of way.
© Copyright. Arthur Chappell
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